"The Sicilian season of the Cantaloupe melon seems to be turning into an absolute disaster for the growers. They are being offered barely 0.20 cents per kilo for their product," said Alessandro Morgana, a small-scale grower from Palma di Montechiaro. The melons are grown in quite a vast area, from Palma di Montechiaro and Licata to further south along the island's coast.
"There is nothing bad to say about the quality at all, but the commercial value is minimal. Cultivation costs, on the other hand, are a fixed item and are also constantly rising. For example, a Cantaloupe seedling costs €1.00 to €1.05, but of course the costs don't stop there. The crops must also be covered with plastic, the plants must be treated, and fertilizers also cost money. Even if a plant manages to produce 6 to 8 kg of melons, the growing costs come out to 0.60/0.70 cents per kilo. And then there are labor costs that no one talks about, because the work of small-scale growers is simply overlooked."
"The personal sacrifices seem to have no value, but the costs incurred do, the banks take care of that with their reminders to pay off debts," complains the grower. "Right now, unfortunately, we're seeing prices of 0.10/0.20 cents per kilo coming up and loads being returned because of some dispute or just volumes going unsold. We are running huge risks because of overexposure to debt. We are piling up debt just by working. That's really unacceptable."
"The core of the current problem is overproduction due to the period in which the planting happened. Almost all the product is ripe at the same time. Moreover, because of the bad weather, consumption is not picking up at all."
"We as an industry are just asking the government for some oxygen. We are asking for mediation with the banks, to get a moratorium on current loans and more favorable interest rates on the next loans. Otherwise, it will be difficult to plant crops next season."
This time, foreign competition has little or nothing to do with it. After all, the Sicilian Cantaloupe melon is the first European product to enter the Italian and European markets. The Sicilian product is preceded only by the Senegalese melon and then Sicily is flanked by the North African and then the other Mediterranean growing regions. The Mediterranean fruit and vegetable supply has the responsibility to contribute to filling supply gaps and to try to respond to demand.